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Modi’s 303 Mandate: Voters Want Restoration of India’s Lost Glory

Those who have voted Modi again believe he will successfully target India’s ‘enemies’ & improve our global standing.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Image used for representational purposes.
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The mandate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 was a vote of hope – hope that he would provide jobs, provide solutions to age-old problems, and improve the quality of life. In contrast, the mandate of 2019 is a vote of confidence, but faith in Modi for the wrong reasons.

There is no longer faith in elusive jobs, nor the belief that Modi will fix agrarian issues which have caused huge distress to small and marginal farmers. There is also no confidence that ‘achhe din’ will be ushered in.

However, they have confidence that Modi will successfully target India’s ‘enemies’, both inside and outside. People have voted for Narendra Modi because they believe he will revive India’s lost glory and enhance the country’s global standing.

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They also believe, because they have been told, that if they ever queue up at immigration desks at foreign airports, the officials will look at them with respect upon seeing their Indian passport.

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But most importantly, those who handed Modi a second successive term, did so because of the confidence that he will ensure that the hitherto ‘appeased’ minorities, especially Muslims, will be brought into the mainstream, making them fall in line with the majority’s sentiments.

Make no mistake. People read the subliminal message of the ‘muscular nationalism’ narrative that Modi had woven after Pulwama-Balakot. They are confident that Modi will continue ‘fixing’ this problem, even though the government will keep reiterating ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ as its credo.

The mandate of 2019 is also of confidence in Modi’s continued capacity to deliver on micro-economic services.

The government will ensure that existing schemes — distribution of subsidised gas cylinders, funding toilets, loans for homes and small businesses, etc continue — and will also step up its welfare programmes.

The confidence of the electorate has also emerged from a host of factors including the ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) factor. In other words, there was no one else but Modi on the menu.

Opposition’s ‘Anti-Modism’ Had Its Limitations

While Modi articulated, packaged and marketed his message professionally, the Opposition did not have any big message, save negativism. 

‘Anti-Modism’ had its limitations, especially in an election of this import. If Indira Gandhi’s “woh kehte hain ‘Indira hatao’; main kehti hoon garibi hatao” worked, so did Modi’s argument that the Opposition was driven by nothing but blind rage against him.

Modi’s biggest success has been the legitimisation of the Sangh Parivar’s nationalism, steeped in Hindutva. From the beginning, Hindu nationalistic politics has been synonymous with Indian nationalism. Through sustained campaigning, Modi has made the secular folks the new political ‘untouchables’.

The way ‘communalist’ was once a slur for the BJP and its affiliates, Modi has single-handedly legitimised ‘sickularist’ as the new political abuse. If secularism was the normal in Indian politics previously, the new normal is Hindutva-tinged nationalism.

Like it took LK Advani several decades to claim that the BJP didn’t mind living in “splendid isolation”, the BJP’s adversaries will take some time to muster the courage to contest Modi or his successors on ideological terms. Till then, expect Opposition leaders to flaunt their sacred threads and family deities.

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Modi’s Image – Of Being Pious, Nation-Defending – Allowed Him To Shake Off Flak

Modi was aware as late as early this year, that he had entered the election season with not the best of governance records. From day one, the government had created a huge data base of micro-economic deliveries, especially services. This was publicised and used to submerge the failure of the government on the macro-economic front, its failure in generatingg employment, and most importantly, its failure to uplift the stagnating rural economy. Yet, the BJP leadership knew this was not enough.

That’s why the Pulwama terror attack paradoxically came as a lifeline for Modi. Like the surgical strikes were used to the BJP’s benefit in 2016, the retaliatory Balakot air strike was smartly showcased. Modi’s image – of being nation-defending, pious, selfless – saved him from accusations that would have stuck to lesser politicians — for example, flak for ‘modelling’ at Jim Corbett Park at the time of the Pulwama attack.

How A ‘Never-On-Holiday’ Modi Framed New Terms of Engagement

The index of trust in Modi is the highest among most of the recent Indian politicians. After all, hadn’t he declared in 2014, “Main desh nahi mitne dunga”. If Modi was good with oratory previously, he took it to new levels. Besides governance and politics, he had certainly focussed on improving his already good public-speaking kills.

The never-on-a-holiday-leader framed new terms of engagement with the people. He positioned himself as the challenger of status-quoists, and identified new symbols of the post-colonial elite, Khan Market for instance, that he vowed to uproot.

Tapping into the nationalistic sentiment, Modi labelled anyone asking questions of the government as ‘anti-national’. Anyone imploring the Election Commission to be more impartial was also cast alongside the same lot. Like always, Modi repeated his headlines and spent no time on detail. Even though NYAY was a better idea, the Rs 2,000 that was credited to banks proved to be more beneficial. Unlike Modi, the Opposition failed to bedazzle.

Within a fortnight of the Balakot strikes, Modi’s victory had become certain. Thereafter, in hindsight it is evident, it was just a matter of taking the tally to a new high. Single party majorities don’t evoke pleasant memories in India. But what is more worrying is that Modi is ideologically driven, something which his predecessors (like Indira Gandhi and her son) were not.

(The writer is an author and journalist based in Delhi. His most recent books are ‘Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984’ and ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’. He can be reached at @NilanjanUdwin. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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